US Open 2013 Ladies’ 3rd round preview: Li, Robson, Stephens and Lisicki in action

Li Na and Laura Robson after their US Open encounter last year, which Robson won

Li Na and Laura Robson after their US Open encounter last year, which Robson won

As we embark on the eclectic display that Day 5 promises to be at the US Open, the ladies’ third round provides us a platter of delectable matches that will likely set the tone for the day. Let us have a look at three of the most interesting ladies’ third round matches.

Li Na (5) v Laura Robson (30) (Head-to-head: Robson leads 1-0)

This is the headline-grabbing Flushing Meadows re-match in the ladies’ draw. Li Na was the high-profile victim who began the precocious Briton’s impressive journey at the Grand Slams last year. Naturally, how the story will unfold this year is the question on everybody’s lips. Ably supported by Justine Henin’s former coach Carlos Rodriguez, Li Na seems to be in a calmer state of mind lately and her run to the year’s last Grand Slam has been pretty decent, with two semifinal showings at Toronto and Cincinnati.

Laura Robson, as dangerous as she is with her big lefty forehand, is unfortunately suffering from a right wrist injury. She had a sparkling outing at her home Slam at Wimbledon, but the injury might affect her when push comes to shove. And that might just give an edge to the Chinese No. 1 and enable her to exact revenge. Li has looked quite impressive so far in her 30th Slam appearance, and will be the favourite going into this match.

Prediction: Li Na wins in straight sets.

Jamie Hampton (23) v Sloane Stephens (15) (Head-to-head: Stephens leads 2-1)

This match will be the cynosure of all eyes as two of America’s sweethearts will be locking horns at their home Slam. These talented youngsters are the future of women’s tennis and both Hampton and Stephens are known for their lightning speed and huge forehands. Jamie Hampton is seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time; the girl who yearned to study medicine at Stanford is coming off a memorable European summer that included a run to the Eastbourne final. She also has a semi-final appearance at Stanford to boast of, in addition to six top 20 wins.

But Grand Slams and Sloane Stephens have an eerie connection. The 20-year-old has soared mightily on the big stage, which is evidenced by her 14-3 Grand Slam record in 2013. And if her last match is anything to go by, she is not ready to take her foot off the pedal; she demolished Urszula Radwanska with the loss of just two games in the second round.

Prediction: Stephens wins in straight sets.

Ekaterina Makarova (24) v Sabine Lisicki (16) (Head-to-head: Tied at 1-1)

Sabine Lisicki, the smiling assassin with the deadly serve and huge forehand, has looked confident and ready to take on the challenges. Her preparation for the US Open was a little hampered by a wrist injury but the Wimbledon runner-up has looked fresh and raring to go in her first two matches at New York. Lisicki, who is known more for her grasscourt credentials, has confessed that she is determined to reach the second week for the first time at the US Open.

The lefty Ekaterina Makarova will be a tough nut to crack though. She reached the New Haven quarterfinals last week and will be looking to take on the German armed with a good deal of confidence. Makarova’s last triumph over Lisicki came in 2006, and if the Bollettieri Academy protégé plays relatively error-free, she will make it to the fourth round. But can she keep the errors down for the full duration of the contest?

Prediction: Lisicki wins in three sets.

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